Guest article by Paisley Hansen
When a person gets sick or injured, the best thing they can do is get their personal physician involved early on, and then make sure that the doctor is kept up-to-date and involved throughout their entire treatment and recovery. Unfortunately, given the harsh realities of American health-care, many patients find themselves trying to limit the amount of time they spend communicating with their doctors. They think it makes good financial sense to do that, since every minute spent speaking with a doctor could result in another costly medical bill. At the same time, they know the human body is a self-repairing machine that will often fix itself if given an opportunity. So, when a patient absolutely must see a doctor, it makes sense to them to visit quickly and neglect the follow-up. On the other hand, patients who stay in touch with their doctors afterwards tend to recover more quickly, while doctors who maintain communication with patients are more likely to develop a successful practice.
But how should followup doctor-patient communication be handled? Here are some ideas to help you get started (whether you’re a patient, or a doctor).
- Go to a doctor you know personally. When it comes time to find a local dentist or doctor, seek someone you already know, because a personal family friend, or someone who you know through other acquaintances, will be more likely to be willing to keep in touch with you following a visit. If you just moved to a new town and don’t know anyone, visit review sites such as ZocDoc or the Yellowpages to find a doctor that is highly recommended.
- Just ask your physician. Most physicians truly want to help their patients get better. Ask them directly if they would be willing to contact you via telephone, text, email, or video call for a quick follow-up after the visit. It may feel as though you’re asking for a free service, but it really is in your best interest to be able to discuss concerns without having to make another appointment.
- Check for a social media page. Some physicians have links to social media pages set up on their website to help facilitate communication with their patients. This allows for advice, concerns, and questions to be easily given and received without having to go through the hassle of making a follow-up appointment. Of course, the frequency with which a specific doctor checks these pages or responds to questions will vary between physicians. Also, remember that there is no substitute for an actual check-up.
- Create a social media page. This is a great way to connect with patients (and to find new patients as well). It only takes a few minutes of your time to set up, and you’ll be able to support it easily enough by simply checking it once or twice a day, or having your staff do it. Use the page to follow-up with patients and to answer their health questions. Just be sure not to divulge any confidential information where other users could see it. Use personal messaging for one-one-one conversations.
- Have a nurse or employee contact the patient. Not every patient will need or want an in-depth follow-up; many will be content with a simple phone call to verify that everything is going well. For these patients, a call from a nurse or other employee will let them know that you care about their well-being, and if the patient does have concerns, then you can contact them yourself via your preferred method.
- Give out your personal number/email address. This one is kind of risky, but if you trust your patients and want to be there for them, then there’s really no better way to show that trust and concern. Not only will it allow a patient to contact you directly with any concerns that they might have, but it will also let them know that they’ve really found a doctor who actually cares. When this happens, you can bet that they’ll be wanting to recommend you to their friends and family. If you’d rather not have people contacting you directly, consider setting up a message service that patients can use when they need you to contact with them.
It can be difficult for doctors and patients to stay connected after an appointment, but the advantages to both parties are enough to make it worth the effort. Doctors should be involved in patient recovery from start to finish, and by retaining communication throughout the process, expensive complications can be avoided, and everyone can benefit.